Entrepreneurship Lessons From Mom

What these alumni learned from their mothers about launching a business.  

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In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked alumni entrepreneurs to share those valuable lessons they learned from their moms that have guided them through the ups and downs of launching, running, and growing their own businesses. Their responses prove that inspiring maternal advice resonates throughout a lifetime.

Greg Ahn ’05, Founder and CEO, Alcohol by Volume

“I think the most valuable lesson my mother taught me was to follow my passions, which was a very unusual philosophy for a Korean mother to promote. While every Korean mother I knew was pushing their kids to be doctors and lawyers, my mother encouraged me to do something that made me happy.”

Karen Hamou ’12, Founder, Matron Saint

“My mother is a role model of a strong, free-thinking, independent woman. So I built a maternity fashion brand with a mission to empower women and inspire mothers and mothers-to-be to stand out and flaunt, not hide, their womanhood and motherhood.”

Rachel Apfel Glass ’06, Founder, Glosslab

“My mother taught me to pursue my passion and that the best way to be successful is to do what you love. This has kept me going everyday at Glosslab!”

Neelam Brar ’14, Co-Founder and CEO, District Cowork

“One day my mom turned to me and said, 'You work so hard, how come you're not the CEO of a company like Pepsi?' comparing me to Indra Nooyi. It was at that moment I decided to quit my job and build that opportunity for myself. She's always taught me to think big and I love her encouragement.”

Nili Gilbert ’03, Co-Founder and Portfolio Manager, Matarin Capital Management 

“My mother always encouraged me to break the mold, think outside of the box, and always to lead or found my own clubs at school rather than just joining and being a member. Although she had passed away by the time we co-founded Matarin, I could clearly hear her voice in my ear enthusiastically encouraging us to take the jump.”

Amy Moses ’89, CEO and Founder, Ballooning Nest Eggs

“I got my creativity ‘gene’ from my mom, who instilled in me a strong appreciation for visual design; she nurtured that talent in me from the time I was a toddler with lots of art classes and projects (she was a fine artist). Having that critical eye for design was essential for creating a sophisticated visual aesthetic for our soon-to-launch parent-focused app in the wealth management space.”

Paulina Dougherty ’18, Founder, Grete Knitwear

“My great-grandmother Grete taught us that if you are going to do something, you have to do it right. We try to apply this to everything we do: from the smallest details to the biggest decisions. And it’s easy to remember, because we named the business after her.”

Nikhil Bahadur ’12, Co-Founder and COO, Blue Nectar

“In high school my mom urged me to take Spanish classes instead of continuing to study French. I did not follow her advice. In the eight years of traveling back and forth to Mexico, I haven’t spoken French once.”

Aliza Freud ’01, CEO, SheSpeaks

“The thing that I learned from [my mom] that has inspired me as a leader … is empathy. She’d say ‘walk a mile in that person’s shoes,’ and that taught me to be empathetic. As a leader I find it’s my most important skill.”

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